<
>

The missing piece for SEC West teams

It's that time of the year in the sports calendar where the news is made off the playing field, with most of the major sports in their offseasons (except for baseball). Trades are happening left and right in the NBA, the NFL has some downtime before training camp and baseball's trade deadline is next month.

In that spirit, we thought we'd have some fun on the SEC blog this week. Earlier this month, the Golden State Warriors won their second NBA championship in three years in large part because of the acquisition of Kevin Durant as a free agent last offseason. To that end, we ask: If your favorite SEC team could add any active player from another team in the league to help put it over the top (whether that means having a better shot at winning a championship or making a bowl game, whatever their relative goal is), who would that player be?

Today, we'll pick players we think would be the "missing piece" for SEC West teams:

Alabama: DE/LB Arden Key, LSU

The Crimson Tide recruit enough talent annually that they aren't in great need of much extra but they did lose their most productive pass-rushers from last year's team: Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams. Key, who was second in the SEC in sacks last year with a dozen, would certainly fit in well (probably in the Williams role) on the Tide defense.

Arkansas: DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama

The Razorbacks need help on defense and are switching to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. What would help that transition is a strong, consistent force in the middle at nose tackle. Payne is just that. He's not going to rack up huge stats (nose tackles in a 3-4 typically don't) but he has great strength (bench-presses 545 pounds, squats 635) and is disruptive in the middle.

Auburn: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

The Tigers have a talented new quarterback in Jarrett Stidham but not a ton of returning production. No returning receiver had more than 25 receptions a year ago. Kirk would be a perfect fit. He's a consistent producer (163 combined catches and 3,207 combined all-purpose yards over the last two years) and can play a multitude of roles in the offense.

LSU: QB Austin Allen, Arkansas

You knew it was going to be a quarterback for the Tigers, right? It's the one position they've had the most trouble solidifying over the years, and having a good one is so critical if you have national championship dreams -- which the Tigers do. No SEC quarterback threw for more yards against Power 5 conference competition last year than Allen (2,792) and he's as tough as they come. Matt Canada's offense can be multiple, but it'll be a huddle team, to which Allen is accustomed. Pair him with running back Derrius Guice and watch the points pile up.

Mississippi State: DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia

The Bulldogs do not return a defensive line starter so they could use help up front. Dan Mullen and his staff made sure to tap into the junior college ranks for immediate help, but a talent like Thompson, who's a defensive tackle but can play multiple positions up front, would be a big help. He finished last season with 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Ole Miss: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

The Rebels lost four senior cornerbacks and safety Tony Conner; they could experience in the secondary. Fitzpatrick can play corner or safety and is around the ball all the time. He led the SEC with six interceptions in 2016, including two that were returned for touchdowns.

Texas A&M: DE/LB Arden Key, LSU

The Aggies just lost a pair of productive pass-rushers, including one of the nation's best (No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Myles Garrett), and don't quite have similar talent in the pipeline to replace them. Assuming Key would be ready to go (he missed spring football for personal reasons), he would help stem the loss of Garrett. The Aggies have good depth at defensive tackle but are thin at defensive end; Key would be a great fit. And he's the only guy on this list twice, because, well, great pass-rushers aren't easy to come by.